Our School in a Notebook

Not too long ago, I read a great article from a friend on recognizing and recuperating from homeschool burnout.    I’ve had that season in my life, but what struck me in reading through her post this time was a quote from Miss Charlotte Mason:

The object of children’s literary studies is not to give them precise information as to who wrote what in the reign of whom? – but to give them a sense of the spaciousness of the days, not only of great Elizabeth, but of all those times of which poets, historians and the makers of tales, have left us living pictures…

That small nugget reminded me of a brief conversation that I had with a customer who asked me about posts using my Blessed Heritage curriculum.   It occurred to me that when our older two used the elementary curriculum, it was pre-blogging.   Remember those days–the Stone Ages?   Anyway, I thought to discuss how we ‘give a sense of the spaciousness of the days,’ and to share some general information about how we use notebooks.

I sometimes get e-mails that express a concern about a younger child “getting it,” and I have responded, though not nearly as eloquently, about what to expect of younger students when completing literature-based curriculum.    A classical approach that is more memory-focused than Charlotte Mason’s would emphasize the memorization of dates, events, and people.   Yes, your child might impress a few more relatives with rote memorization, but does he understand conceptually what he is saying?   Can he place visual “pegs” in history based upon the stories of the period?   Does he talk in “offline” conversations about the books he read?    That is the value of a leterature-based curriculum, and it is perfectly acceptable that a little one does not “get” every story.  He’s not ready for the AP exam just yet; by the time high school has arrived, and he’s seen American history at least once more, he will dialogue about this spaciousness of days in ways that will amaze even you.   

When our oldest narrated her way through this same curriculum, we used a big box of perforated computer paper in order for her to create her own version of history based upon what we read.   I still have some of that paper in a box that is now a part of our scrap/ recycled paper bin!   But, I’ve upgraded our notebook work with pre-printed pages for all the children.   The problem with my youngest is she doesn’t like to color!   So her book is nowhere near as illustrated as the oldest’s book was, but every now and then I’ll say, “Draw me a picture, and I want it in color.”   So, here are several of my favorites:

We don’t just notebook about our history studies; I splurged on  Live and Learn’s pre-printed foldables for the Apologia elementary series.   With CurrClick’s sale, these were far more affordable than some of my previous lapbook purchases from the same company.

When it comes to notebooking, we didn’t stop there!    On last year, I shared our wonderful notebook makeover, and how excited the youngest was to spruce up her learning in this way.   So one of these notebooks became her current events notebook, where she summarizes a couple of articles that she reads through kids’ sites (see our 2012/2013 Curriculum page for details).   Nothing fancy here in terms of her capturing the jist of the articles, but she gets more handwriting practice and an indirect lesson in sentence structure and readability.

By the way, notebooks aren’t just for little people in our home.    Our son has become quite creative with his pages as well!

And though I don’t take the time to illustrate my work as much as I once did (I’m getting back to it), even I’ve “gotten into the act” of narration in order to have even more meaningful discussions with the kids!


I’ll confess that I’ve gotten rejuvenated after reading a post from Jimmie Lanley, aka the Notebooking Fairy, lists a number of boards that center on journaling and notebooking.


If you are a fan of notebooking or lapbooking, how are you using these tools in your home?

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